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INNOFFARENA-Innovasjonsarena for stat og kommune

Norges arbeid for menneskerettighetsforkjempere- implementering og effekt

Alternative title: International support to human rights defenders- the case of Norway

Awarded: NOK 1.8 mill.

Project Number:


Project Period:

2021 - 2025


Defending human rights and the Sustainable Development Goals is one of the most dangerous things you can do in many parts of the world- in spite of a wide consensus of the fundamental role human rights defenders have in this work. A human rights defender is a person who, individually or with others, acts to promote or protect human rights. Still, human rights defenders, in all their diversity, are regularly incarcerated, criminalised, experience slander campaigns and surveillance, and daily threats all over the world. In 2020 the killings of 331 defenders, were documented by the organisation Frontline Defenders. While many fight for the environment and the rights of indigenous peoples, others work for women’s rights and against discrimination of minority groups. More than 20 years ago, the UN General Assembly, recognized the need for protection of the right to defend rights by adopting the human rights defenders declaration. Since then, protection systems and mechanisms have been developed on a local, national, regional and international level. Norway has been at the forefront of the international work, and early it adopted operational guidelines to the foreign service on its support to human rights defenders. The aim of this project is to see how the Norwegian effort, and how the foreign service, operationalised the policies in this field, with a focus on these guidelines. This project will also look at how other relevant actors in the field perceive the Norwegian contribution and how it affects them. This project aims to shed light on how human rights defenders, in selected countries, experience the international support and how it affects their situation. This project aspires to contribute to increased knowledge about an important Norwegian foreign policy priority and its effects, and to add to insight and learning about international support to human rights defenders in local and national contexts, not least in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In the context of extreme threats to human rights defenders worldwide, the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (hereafter, the Declaration) was adopted by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in 1998. Since then, there has been a growing recognition of the role of civil society and human rights defenders (HRD) as central to the realisation of human rights and as key actors to the fulfilment of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Norway has been at the forefront of the international work on HRDs through political and financial support, and advocacy for normative development. It was one of the first countries to adopt a policy tool providing Norwegian Foreign Ministry and diplomats operational recommendations; “Norway’s Efforts to support Human Rights Defenders” (hereafter, the Guidelines) In addition, Human rights defenders has been highlighted as a priority area in the White Paper “Opportunities for all; Human Rights in Norway’s Foreign Policy Development cooperation” (Meld. St. 10 2014-15). This research asks; In what way does, and can, Norway’s international support for protection of human rights defenders achieve maximum effectiveness at the local and national levels, and fulfil its intended goals? The primary goal is to contribution to future policy outcomes by providing empirical knowledge and comparative analysis of Norway’s role in efforts on human rights defender’s protection that can be shared within the Norwegian institutional structure as well as internationally. It seeks to highlight best practices, lessons learned, as well as to point to areas for improvement. The reserach seeks to undertake case studies from countries prioritised by Norway in its foreign policy. Access to practitioners in this field, the foreign service as well as human rights defenders is vital for the success as well as good security assesments for field work.

Funding scheme:

INNOFFARENA-Innovasjonsarena for stat og kommune